The first laptops to make use of the SpursEngine, a multimedia co-processor derived from the Cell chip that powers the PlayStation 3, will go on sale in Japan in July.

Toshiba will launch its Qosmio G50 and F40 machines with the chip, which contains four of the "Synergistic Processing Elements" from the Cell Broadband Engine processor. The Cell chip used in the PlayStation 3 has eight of the SPE cores plus a Power PC main processor. The SPE cores perform the heavy number-crunching that makes the console's graphics so stunning.

The SpursEngine SE1000 will work in much the same way in the laptops.

The operating system will run on an Intel Core 2 Duo chip and the SpursEngine will be called on to handle processor-intensive tasks, such as processing of high-definition video. This arrangement means the laptop should be capable of some tricks that haven't been seen on machines until now.

Among them, Toshiba said the two computers will be able to upscale standard-definition video to high definition; transcode in realtime digital TV to MPEG4 so that the resulting files are cut down in size by one-eighth and burn video to DVD in half the time of current machines.

A novel feature is face navigation. Faces that appear in video are recognized and displayed as thumbnail images to create a visual index to the video. Users can find the person or scene they want by glancing at the thumbnails and then click on the respective one to watch that portion of video. The computer can also divide up the scenes in user-shot video so they can be viewed one-by-one and analyze and display the volume or the clip across its entire length so, for example, excitement in a sports event can be more easily found.

Finally, by analyzing images from the computer's built-in camera it's possible to control video playback with hand gestures.

The Qosmio G50 is a multimedia laptop and has an 18.4-inch high-definition screen, 500G bytes of hard-disk space, NVidia GeForce 9600M graphics processor, dual digital TV tuners and wireless LAN including 802.11n. It weighs 4.9 kilograms and measures 45 centimeters by 31cms by 4.8cms. Battery life is about 4 hours.

The Qosmio G50 will be cost from ¥290,000 (US$2,700) and the F50, which has a 15-inch screen and 250G byte hard-disk drive, from ¥250,000. Toshiba plans to put the machines on sale overseas but has yet to announce launch details.